About us

Since 2001, Cascade has been committed to creating custom, targeted PR and marketing communications strategies for every size business from corporate and mid-market to small business, startups and nonprofits.

Today, we are a virtual story agency with the know-how to attract customers, media, partners and more. And, we not only understand but we are experts in the secret sauce to succeeding in a digital world. We know how to tell your story where it matters most.



Cascade takes into account all of your needs and builds a customized approach to making all of our clients successful. Whether you have an established business launching or breathing life into a new product, or you're preparing to launch or grow a startup, our team becomes part of yours as a long-term marketing partner and trusted advisor.

 

We pride ourselves on being ethical journalists and PR/marketing professionals with a commitment to our clients. Just ask our clients!

As a virtual agency, we staff our accounts with veteran communications and marketing pros who really know their stuff. 

Today's technology allows Cascade to offer our larger project clients a veteran team, not interns, on their account. Our awesome team affordably works to grow your business by generating positive media attention, brand strategy, responsive videos and graphics, and engaging digital marketing. 

Our partners are handpicked for their expertise and common ethical approach to offering only the best services - media relations, graphic design, video , digital ads, and big scope brand projects with one of the top brand firms in the country.

 

No other agency offers what Cascade Communications does for clients. We've got a deep bench, are truly unique and leading the way in our industry.

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Our Founder

With more than 20 years’ experience in journalism, public relations and marketing communications, Cascade Communications Founder Jennifer Fortney has successfully created, implemented and managed PR and integrated marketing programs for some of America's top Fortune 1000 companies, and a variety of small businesses and startups across the country and around the world.

 

She started her career writing broadcast news, transitioned into sports marketing and then took on the position of Director of Promotions and Marketing for a radio station, where she was a jack of all marketing trades. Moving to Chicago, she began working at one of the world’s largest corporate consumer PR firms and later a boutique agency, opening Cascade Communications in 2001, all with a focus on consumer lifestyle products and services.

 

Jennifer is one of few individuals to receive a personal bonus from a Fortune 500 client for her successful work in single-handedly managing a nearly $1 million national campaign.

 

Known for her nose for news, she has achieved thousands of media placements for clients and developed a new model for marketing communications that offers clients results.  Jennifer has helped several startups prepare for launch by consulting on operations, production, staffing, growth management and fundraising. These make a difference in ensuring successful marketing campaigns that show results.

 

Jennifer has a Bachelor's of Science in Journalism, Business Communications from the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas, with a minor in Music - Vocal Performance. She has sat on several boards and conducted pro bono work for a variety of nonprofits. 

 

She is a speaker, guest lecturer and was the PR Instructor at SCORE Chicago for 5 years. Jennifer has been interviewed in a variety of media and podcasts, was a regular contributor to NBCChicago.com “Inc. Well” blog, the Chicago Tribune and is an expert and contributor to several small business and startup media outlets. www.CascadeComms.com

 

jfortney (@) cascadecomms (dot) com

Jennifer Walus

Senior PR Strategist

Multicultural Marketing Expert

Born in Guadalajara, Mexico and raised in northern Virginia, Jennifer serves as an independent marketing consultant and senior public relations strategist for numerous organizations and agencies. Since 2009, she has planned and executed consumer and B2B marketing strategies for several associations and organizations:

In 2003, Jennifer launched the Multicultural practice at Edelman Chicago and served as Vice President until her departure 2009. During that time, she grew the group to include the multi-agency Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children, Walmart, Burger King, AT&T Wireless, SCJohnson, Shell, Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), Butterball Turkey, Kimberly-Clark, the Texas Department of Transportation, Unilever Home and Personal Care brands—most notably the award-winning Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.

 

Previously, Jennifer launched the public relations department at small Hispanic agency Sanchez & Associates (formerly Sanchez Healy) where she spearheaded grassroots public relations campaigns for the Illinois Department of Public Health’s teen anti-tobacco program and Jewel-Osco, spent three years in the Brand Marketing practice of global public relations agency Burson-Marsteller conducting retail marketing and crisis communications for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and got her start at Weber Shandwick (formerly BSMG Worldwide) implementing consumer and health strategies for the got milk? campaign.

 

Fluent in Spanish and Italian and proficient in French, Jennifer received the Dartmouth College Young Alumni Distinguished Service Award in 2010. An avid a cappella singer and scuba diver, she lives in the western Chicago suburbs with her husband and three children.

Heather is an experience media relations expert with more than 15 years experience in PR and campaign creation. She has secured top-tier media coverage for a variety of B2C and B2B clients in lifestyle consumer, health & wellness and tech. 

Known as an innovator in digital media, social and D2C email strategies, Heather understands how to create compelling stories and impactful programs that support strategic business initiatives and generate awareness.

 

Previous to joining Cascade, Heather worked at boutique PR agencies and served as Vice-president and Director of Client Campaigns for a boutique consumer agency.

Known for building strong media relationships, she understands the value of PR and communications for clients and the impact on their company as a whole and

Heather also has a unique understanding of culture, team and project management which makes her a special asset to Cascade. 

She lives in Chicago and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from DePaul University.

Heather Willett, Media Relations & Digital Strategist

Sandra Guy 

Content Story Strategist

Award-winning Journalist

Sandra’s passion throughout her career centers on breaking exclusive, meaningful and in-depth news, leading social-media and strategy-setting projects that are intellectually stimulating and contributing to a hungry yet responsible and engaging news organization. While reporting in the field, she also honed her expertise in taking photos and video, as well as live tweeting, blogging and updating online stories in real time.

Throughout her 37-year career as a reporter, Sandra has covered diverse issues from scandals to Chicago, suburban, state and federal politics, crime victims’ and their families’ stories, behind-the-scenes issues on college campuses and significant business, scientific, technological and medical breakthroughs. Sandra also reported from technology events in Singapore and Geneva, Switzerland, during the height of the dot-com frenzy in the late 1990s as the news editor at Telephony magazine.

 

For the past 21 years, Sandra has been a reporter, a freelance writer and technology columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. As a podcast contributor and freelance writer for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) magazine for the past 10 years, Sandra has won several awards for coverage, including the 2010 Grand Award from the Awards for Publication Excellence and then received it again in 2018, the Grand Award for a cover feature and the Feature Writing Award of Excellence. 

A native of Appalachia, Guy started her career at The Coalfield Progress newspaper in southwestern Virginia after she was graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in English and communication from Emory & Henry College in 1983. She has started work toward a master’s degree in public policy studies at the University of Chicago.

Sandra served as president of the Chicago chapter of the Association for Women Journalists (AWJ) 2001-2003, and has taught as an adjunct instructor at DePaul University in the College of Communication since 2011.

With a background in Psychology from Harvard University, an MBA in Marketing & Strategic Management from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and nearly two decades of experience in sales, marketing, and brand management roles, Laura Barnard is our resident strategic branding expert.

Laura spent 10 years in the confectionery industry, leading iconic consumer brands like Skittles, Starburst, 5 Gum, Mamba, and Werther’s Original. Following her role as the Director of Marketing for HARIBO, Laura spent two years as the Director of Business Strategy for Bluedog, a consulting agency specializing in innovation, brand design, and strategy. At Bluedog, Laura led client projects for world-class organizations including Mondelez, Mars, Constellation Brands, MillerCoors, McDonald’s, Beam Suntory, SC Johnson, and others.

Laura believes that the same strategic principles and approach to developing amazing consumer brands, particularly positioning and storytelling, can also be applied to developing amazing personal brands. As a former college athlete, she also understands and appreciates the power of teamwork. She lets this collaborative spirit guide her interactions with her clients and virtual teammates every day.  

Laura is a Chicago-native currently residing in New Hampshire with her wife and three daughters.

Laura Barnard, Personal Brand Strategist

Lidia Varesco

Brand Strategist & Designer

Lidia is a more than a talented artist and designer. She is a skilled brand strategist and our longtime partner. In 2017, Lidia wrote and published A to Z of Branding: A Primer & Workbook.

For the past 25+ years, Lidia has worked with a wide variety of companies and nonprofits in nearly every industry, developing brand framework and strategic design direction that helps organizations better engage with their audience and attract opportunities.

Most recently Lidia designed the logo for Crawligator a startup client who re-imagined an old tummy time toy from the late 60’s by redesigning it to meet today’s safety standards. She needed a brand that would speak to parents and the juvenile product industry. Lidia hit a homerun!

She also designed a new, inviting brand for the Lakeview Lutheran Churches in Chicago, which communicated vitality, community and fellowship, everything the client wanted. Like the Crawligator, both designs drove the website design.

She believes in giving back, and outside of her consumer design work, dedicates time to helping nonprofits.

A graduate of Columbia College Chicago, Lidia is WBE-certified, a board member of the Association of Consultants to Nonprofits (CAN) and committee member for Association Forum and American Marketing Association. She is a speaker and contributor, instructor for nonprofit Web Advisor, and guest blogger for Keela and Bloomerang. 

Anthony was born in Chicago, raised in the northwest suburbs. He is a multimedia producer and lives for great stories. Whether a web series, comedy sketch, corporate videos to food and restaurant content, he has done it all.

 

With 20 years’ experience, Anthony has done just about every production job there is from writing treatments to lighting and final edits. He comes by storytelling honestly. It feeds his curiosity and makes him a perfect fit for Cascade. Anthony’s visions are creative and original with a twinge of modern artistry that is so important for winning over audiences today.

 

As the Assistant Director at the world famous The Second City and Improve Olympics (IO), both in Chicago, he learned about story structure, but it was studying with the likes of Del Close, Stephen Colbert and Nia Vardalos where he honed his storytelling skills. This led him to Future Media Concepts where he interned and took every class available.

 

Since then, Anthony took what he learned and applied it to his video production company. Always fascinated with how good editing makes all the difference a story has on a viewer; he has mastered 3D modeling and graphic effects to add impact and emotion. In fact, he recently won the Best Editing prize at the Los Angeles Global Film Fest. 

 

As a producer, Anthony has managed projects big and small and enjoys overseeing every detail of a project from budget and team to talent and postproduction, which he says is…“where the real surprises happen. There are always wonderful little details that the camera captures that nobody notices on the day of the shoot. Finding those moments and putting them into the story we’re telling in a way that seems effortless, is my specialty.”

Anthony Farinas

Video Strategy & Production

Contact: 
Chicago 

Chicago, IL 

T: 773/961-7791

Email us:

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© 2021 Cascade Communications Public relations agency and marketing communications for small business and startups. Offices in Chicago.